Tales from the SunnySide: Iron Clady

No one becomes an offensive lineman for the accolades. The past Broncos requirement that no O lineman speak to the media may have been snuffed by the NFL, but it lives on in their hearts and traditions. Ryan Clady fits right in.  

He’s used to a quiet approach to life. As a young player, he couldn’t get any interest from the schools in his home city of Rialto CA. He was a DT at Eisenhower High Schools there, and got offers from San Diego State, Idaho State and UTEP before settling on Boise State. Once a Bronco, always a Bronco.  

Clady is one of the reasons that his college Broncos changed their stars. They perennially went undefeated in the regular season and blew their chances at the upcoming bowl games. When he was a freshman, it was a 44-40 lose to Louisville in the Liberty Bowl. In 2006 he started 11 of 13 contests at right tackle and his offense ranked ninth in the nation in scoring at 36.1 points per game, 19th in rushing and fifth in rushing touchdowns before dropping another one to Boston College in the MPC Computers Bowl.

The following year Clady moved to left tackle, and the Broncos improved to second in the nation in scoring (39.7 point per game) and second in rushing touchdowns (39) before eking out a 43-42 victory over No. 10 Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. It brought Clady to a little well earned national attention. The Statue of Liberty play in that game is etched in a lot of people’s consciousness.

“I had to pull around the left side to seal the block,” Clady explained. “Fake like I’m down-blocking a little bit for a couple of seconds, and then pull around for the seal.”

The play also showed the nation how nimble Clady can be as well as what he could offer at the pro level. Dubbed ‘Sweet Feet’ by PJ Alexander, Clady should get equal billing for his iron hands and utterly nasty disposition on the field. Broncos fans are getting used to the sight of him pancaking a rusher and jumping on top for good measure. Sometimes he stays on his feet just to look around for another victim.  It’s nothing new to those who have followed his career. In college, teammates joked that he hadn’t said more than two words to them. Funny and engaging in private, he rarely spoke with the media. But his accomplishments did.  

2005) Named first-team Freshman All-America by ESPN.com, second-team Freshman All-America by Rivals.com and CollegeFootballNews.com and third-team Freshman All-America by theSporting News...

2006) Named second-team All-America by SI.com...Named first-team All-WAC...Started all 13 games at left tackle for the Broncos... Named to SI.com Midseason All-America first team and CollegeFootballNews.com second team...Named to the Outland Trophy Watch List...Named to The Sporting News and Blue Ribbon Preseason All-WAC Teams...

 2007) Named first-team All-America by the AFCA and the Sporting News, second-team All-America by the Walter Camp Football Foundation and SI.com and third-team All-America by Rivals.com...Named first-team All-Western Athletic Conference....Named Boise State’s co-offensive lineman of the year... Named to the PLAYBOYAll-America Football Team...Named preseason first-team All-America by the Sporting News andsecond-team All-America by Nationalchamps.net...Named to Outland Trophy and Rotary Lombardi Watch Lists...Picked as a member of the preseason All-WAC team by the Sporting News and Blue Ribbon Yearbook...

As soon as he declared for the 2008 draft, he declared that he was cut out for the kind of zone blocking scheme that the Denver Broncos runs. He began to train at TEST Sports in Martinsville New Jersey, learning under Willie Rolf, formerly of the Chiefs. A hard worker, he also learned under Will Shields and Jackie Slater. In truth, Clady wasn’t entirely humble. He announced to Scout.com (Feb 2, 08) that he strongly believed that he was the best left tackle in the draft. New England hinted that they lusted after his skills, as did the Ravens. Baltimoreravens.com ran an article on him. Baltimoresun.com asked, “Do your job and don't get noticed.  Isn't that what we want from our franchise offensive tackles?” It was, and it is. Denver felt the same.

Clady started to get a lot of press, but most of the national attention was on Jake Long and his early contract. A lot of Broncos fans thought that was just fine and held their breath. Thankfully, the Football Entities were merciful, and he inexplicably dropped to us in the draft. Jim Goodman and Co has him penciled in from the start.

"My pass-blocking abilities and my feet, I think I have good feet," Clady said at the beginning of 2008. "And I think I can excel at the next level."

It ain’t bragging when you can back it up.

Now 10 weeks into the season, Clady has yet to allow a sack, as several members of this site have asserted. Other than a ‘phantom hold” and a strange chop-block call, Clady has been faultless. His running blocks are coming and his pass blocking is amazing. When you factor in the number of passes the Broncos have attempted (515, compared to 478 for their opponents, it’s even more astounding. That’s one penalty every 257 plays for a rookie LT.

ESPN recently ran an article on Thomas:

…”While there are plenty of players out there with great size, what separates Thomas from the pack is his quickness, light feet and ever-improving technique. Like most of the great ones he almost always appears to be in balance and rarely looks awkward. Mix all of these outstanding attributes with great competitiveness and tremendous work ethic and you have a player every team longs for in their backside protector.”

Broncos fans might think that they were writing about Clady. This season, he may be outdoing Thomas who hasn’t been quite as strong, in part due to opposing teams game-planning him better. On the other hand, Joe T is costing his team 8,000,000.00 per year. (Foxsports.com)

Clady has reasons for his quiet confidence. His mother passed away when he was young and he was raised by his father and extended family. That had a lot to do with his decision to leave school early. Clady said, “I felt I have proven everything I could, playing in college and I was ready for the next level. The time was right for me to pursue my dream.”

What he doesn’t tell you is that he wanted to care for his younger siblings financially. That's far more the measure of the man.

USA Today has been talking (Oct 29 2008) about Clady for the Pro Bowl, and it’s not premature to do so.

Said bleacherreport.com,

“Clady has arguably had a bigger impact on (his) team than any other rookie in the AFC, maybe the NFL. Clady is lighting it up, and deserves some recognition.“

NFL.com said recently,

“Cutler probably wishes he would've had protection half this good at Vanderbilt, where was sacked 80 times in 45 starts.”

With the emergence and health of Ryan Harris, the Broncos have their tackles of the future. They have been digging a moat around Cutler, lining it with stakes and stocking it with dragons.

In April, he told our own TSG, “Right away, I just want to learn the system. I want to play well and I want to be a starter.” Than he added, “Everyone wants to be a Pro-Bowler and to win a couple Super Bowls.” It looks like he’s well on his way.

Learn to laugh at yourself. You will be ceaselessly amused. - Sri Gary Olsen

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